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He Speaks Our Language

He Speaks Our Language

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice. — John 10:3-5

How do we hear and recognize God’s voice?

It’s one of the most important and challenging aspects of faith. Here, the Bible returns to one of its favorite metaphors.

  • God is the Shepherd; we are His sheep.

Tangent alert: Have you ever wondered why humans couldn’t have been a more impressive animal in these allegories? Perhaps a magnificent bird? Or how about a cheetah? Sheep aren’t exactly majestic. And they have a terrible reputation. For being dumb. Or blind. Or always getting lost. Or frightened by just about everything.

On the other hand, in this passage, the sheep are having a moment. They’re discerning — they know their caretaker’s voice and follow him. And they’re shrewd — they’re not fooled by an impostor. They spot the counterfeit a mile away and wisely skedaddle.

Sheep — they’re just like us?

Maybe on our good days. It is incredibly hard to hear God’s voice in our whirring, mile-a-minute culture of commotion. The internet is loud. The news is loud. Our music is loud. Our kids are loud. Our problems are loud. Our distractions are loud.

And God is described as having “a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12 NKJV). No wonder we miss so much.

When I had my first baby, I was amazed at something. Well, a lot of things: her little squeaks, her sweet sighs, her pretty rosebud lips. The astonishing, adult truck driver volume of her burps. But back to the subject. Somehow, even though she was only days old, she seemed to recognize my voice.

Newborns are fascinating, but let’s face it, they don’t do much. Some say the first month of life is really the tenth month of gestation; infants aren’t ready for the world but are just too darn big for the womb. (When I was pregnant with Charley — who came into the world early at nearly ten pounds — I was so enormous that my work colleagues said my belly entered the room thirty seconds before I did.)

In those first weeks, newborns mostly sleep and cry and barely open their eyes. And even when they do, they can’t see much. But babies can hear — and much more than just the indistinct clang and clamor of the world. By the time they are born, many newborns know and recognize the sound of their parents’ voices. In Vale’s first few weeks, sometimes I swear I could see it happen: this tiny lump of flesh, barely days old, eyelids shut tight, reacting — stirring, shifting, eyes flickering — when my familiar voice entered the room.

Let’s underline the point. How could my little newborn seem to recognize her mother’s voice from the moment she entered the world? Because we had spent a lot of time together. We had been intimately connected. Inseparable — literally. She would know my voice anywhere.

And so it is with our relationship with God.

  • If we want to recognize God’s voice, an intimate connection is vital. Moments spent together, just logging time. We must do life with Him, like a baby does with Mom.

We can extend the metaphor even more (yay, let’s!). Think about someone you really know. Your spouse, your sibling, your parent. Not only do you recognize their voice but you also know their tone. You know their inflections. You know what they’re saying — even if they don’t come right out and say it. For example, when I ask my husband, “Would you want to put the kids down tonight?” I am really saying, “You should put the kids down tonight.” I am not really asking. He knows me so well that he knows what I mean.

(Luckily, God is not passive-aggressive.)

To be quiet enough to hear God’s voice, we need more than a quiet place; we need quiet in our spirits and our souls. We need to make space for Him, just being present to Him — hearts open, ears peeled.

And by the way, quietness is hard. Stillness is hard. This is not a prerequisite, yet another impossible threshold we have to cross before God will speak. But it sure makes it easier to hear Him when He does.

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Excerpted with permission from Mostly What God Does by Savannah Guthrie, copyright Savannah Guthrie.

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Your Turn

Do you know the Lord’s voice? Do you hear Him regularly? If not, or if it’s been a while, recommit to spending time with Him. Just be in His presence, in worship, in silence, in wonder. He wants us to hear Him! ~ Devotionals Daily